In 2004, the University of Connecticut made history when its men’s and women’s basketball teams swept the national championships – a first for NCAA Division I basketball.
Now on the 10-year anniversary of the feat, the Huskies have the opportunity to do it again when the women face Notre Dame for the title tonight.
“At the beginning of the year, I am the type of athletic director that takes it one game at a time,” U-Conn. Athletic Director Warde Manuel said (via New Haven Register). “I really thought of the possibility when we both won the first two games (in the NCAA tournament) and you start to think about it…could we do it again?”
The men took care of business first, toppling Kentucky Monday night, 60-54, to win their fourth and most improbable NCAA title.
From Post reporter Liz Clarke’s gamer:
The Huskies became the lowest seed, at No. 7, to win the national championship since Villanova in 1985. And their triumph followed a one-year ban from the postseason because it had fallen short of the NCAA’s minimal academic standards. …
It represented a triumph for second-year Coach Kevin Ollie, a former Connecticut point guard and assistant coach, whose team vanquished a Kentucky squad loaded with seven McDonald’s all-Americans.
It was the different scene in 2004, when the Huskies, led by legendary Coach Jim Calhoun, began the year as the top-ranked team in the nation and finished the year by dismantling Georgia Tech, 82-73.
From Post reporter Barry Svrluga’s 2004 article:
When it mattered — as February turned to March, and then March to April — U-Conn. became what its fans thought it could be, a deep tough, talented, cohesive unit. The Huskies won 14 of their final 15 games, including their last nine, which gave them not only the Big East tournament championship, but the championship of the tournament that matters most.
The women were also in dominant form, with current WNBA star Diana Taurasi leading the charge. Those Huskies ended up beating arch rival Tennessee, 70-61, in the championship game.
Ten years later, U-Conn. women’s basketball continues to be a step above the rest. The Huskies, going for an unprecedented ninth national title, have faced little resistance in reaching the championship.
The game against Notre Dame promises to be the most competitive for either team, as this marks the first time that two undefeated teams will meet in the women’s national championship.
In fact, the war of words have already begun off the court between the teams’ coaches.
The background: U-Conn. has lost just 11 games in the past six seasons, but a half-dozen of those have come against Notre Dame. The Irish have a 9-7 record against the Huskies, including three regular season wins last season before the Big East conference dissolved. Two years ago, the Irish knocked Huskies out of the Final Four in overtime. Last year the Huskies got revenge in a rematch in the national semifinals. Yet [Notre Dame Coach Muffet] McGraw says [U-Conn. Coach Geno] Auriemma has never shown the proper regard for her achievements. …
At least some of McGraw’s wrath, [Auriemma] suggested, was a chip on the shoulder. U-Conn. has won eight national championships. While Notre Dame has won seven of the past nine meetings between them, it has only one championship.
And regardless of whether U-Conn. makes history again or not, the postgame news conference will surely be must-see TV.
2014 Women’s NCAA basketball championship
Who: U-Conn. (39-0) vs. Notre Dame (37-0)
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Nashville, Tenn.